The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined TikTok £12.7 million ($15.8 million USD) for illegally processing the data of 1.4 million children under 13. The information commissioner had said that the video app had done “very little, if anything” to determine and check the age of those using the platform. This is even though anyone under the age of 13 is going against their own terms and conditions.
Data Protection of Minors and Children
TikTok bans anyone under the age of 13 from using the app in their terms and conditions and yet it was found that they consistently failed to enforce their own age restrictions. UK data protection laws also state that any organisation using children’s personal data must obtain consent to do so from the child’s parent or guardian.
During the period addressed by this fine, May 2018 to July 2020, a user on TikTok was only required to validate their age by clicking a self-verification box to confirm they were over 13. So anyone below that age could very easily tick the box regardless and no further checks or verification was undertaken. ICO estimated this led up to 1.4 million UK children under 13 using the app.
Not only that but ICO have said that TikTok continued to fall short as they should have been aware that underage children were using the app. But they failed to do checks and take the necessary steps to remove those not old enough.
There are laws in place to make sure our children are as safe in the digital world as they are in the physical world. TikTok did not abide by those laws.John Edwards, UK Information Commissioner
TikTok have said that they disagree with ICO’s decision and that their “40,000-strong safety team works around the clock to help keep the platform safe”. They stressed that their practices had changed since the period that ICO were looking at.
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